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Old 10-20-2021, 01:14 PM   #1
FF_Ninja
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default I need some help clearing out the clutter.

I need some help and... honestly... it's a little intangible and that makes it hard to pin down. I will take any advice or encouragement that is available.

I suffer from pretty heavy depression. I've also got a pretty chaotic home life sometimes dealing with family issues and domestic drama. The amount of time I have every day where I'm not tied up, I tend to default into playing games to pass the time. This is time I could spend on preparing a campaign or world-building. I know that I'm extremely dissatisfied with what I'm doing: there aren't any quality time-sink games I can invest in and I can only medicate myself with so many matches of Humankind or Civ 6 before I can't even load up the main menu without feeling boredom. I want to break through to the other side, but I've had so little success motivating myself.


I can't decide on a world to start building. Should I work on my criminal empire setting? My modern fantasy? Post-apocalyptic, which I've had a craving for recently?

And even if I could narrow down that aspect, I'm entirely at a loss as to how I should begin. I know that in order to start running anything, I'm going to need (as far as I believe):
  • A functional understanding of whatever digital tabletop environment I want to use - leaning towards FoundryVTT presently. That'll take time.
  • A decently fleshed-out world in which I can run a campaign. Even if I start "big" and flesh out broad details, I'm not even sure where to start. And I want to be able to take a bite out of this one so badly, it's been escaping me for years.
  • At least a passable knowledge of whatever books I want to use.
  • Assets. Digital tabletop makes things a lot easier, but I'm still going to need to generate assets (maps, splats, etc).
  • Recruitment. It'll take time to attract and vet players.

I'm confronted with this mountain. I don't want to put it off any longer, nor abandon it because it's "too big."

I just don't know what to do right now. I want to take the time I have and use it fruitfully.
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Old 10-20-2021, 02:09 PM   #2
ericthered
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Location: far from the ocean
Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

Hey, best wishes!


It sounds like you want to world-build, but you aren't sure where to start or what to start on. A few pieces of advice:
  • You don't have to build one world at a time. I've had multiple going at a time, moving them back and forth between being active and just simmering. Players like decisions and you may find one of the ideas pops out ahead, or that you love all of them
  • You maybe shouldn't build your absolute darling of an idea first. You'll want to get it perfect and that won't happen the first time. Start with something that you like, but that you can make a mistake or two on and look back at and chuckle. Pick something, and sketch out something.
  • Where to start is a hard question, but fortunately, the correct answer is "Somewhere". I like to look at the setting, ask myself a question about it, and then answer it. This could be "what type of magic do I want to focus on?" or it could be "what personality does the local crime lord have?".
  • Perfect is the enemy of done, and sometimes its better to write down flawed ideas than to fret about writing something imperfect. If you're worried about something or feel stuck on it, just come up with three options and choose the best one, then move on. You can even apply this to which question to ask next.
If you get stuck on something, come to the forum and ask for advice. We love world-building, and we love giving advice. I hope you can get into this: its a fabulous hobby.
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Old 10-20-2021, 02:12 PM   #3
Gnome
 
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Location: Cambridge, MA
Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FF_Ninja View Post
I need some help and... honestly... it's a little intangible and that makes it hard to pin down. I will take any advice or encouragement that is available.

I suffer from pretty heavy depression. I've also got a pretty chaotic home life sometimes dealing with family issues and domestic drama. The amount of time I have every day where I'm not tied up, I tend to default into playing games to pass the time. This is time I could spend on preparing a campaign or world-building. I know that I'm extremely dissatisfied with what I'm doing: there aren't any quality time-sink games I can invest in and I can only medicate myself with so many matches of Humankind or Civ 6 before I can't even load up the main menu without feeling boredom. I want to break through to the other side, but I've had so little success motivating myself.


I can't decide on a world to start building. Should I work on my criminal empire setting? My modern fantasy? Post-apocalyptic, which I've had a craving for recently?

And even if I could narrow down that aspect, I'm entirely at a loss as to how I should begin. I know that in order to start running anything, I'm going to need (as far as I believe):
  • A functional understanding of whatever digital tabletop environment I want to use - leaning towards FoundryVTT presently. That'll take time.
  • A decently fleshed-out world in which I can run a campaign. Even if I start "big" and flesh out broad details, I'm not even sure where to start. And I want to be able to take a bite out of this one so badly, it's been escaping me for years.
  • At least a passable knowledge of whatever books I want to use.
  • Assets. Digital tabletop makes things a lot easier, but I'm still going to need to generate assets (maps, splats, etc).
  • Recruitment. It'll take time to attract and vet players.

I'm confronted with this mountain. I don't want to put it off any longer, nor abandon it because it's "too big."

I just don't know what to do right now. I want to take the time I have and use it fruitfully.
That sounds difficult.

My only advice would be: find players first. The best thing I have going in gaming is a good play group. As GM, I always start by thinking about what they want to play, what kinds of games they're interested in, etc. I don't even think about world-building until I've pinned down how the world-building will make the game more fun for them--not for some group of players in the abstract, but for my players, who have a unique set of interests and proclivities.

And this is what keeps me going in my game prep--the knowledge that the payoff will be when I see them enjoying what I've created.
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Old 10-20-2021, 02:21 PM   #4
Taneli
 
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Location: Helsinki, Finland
Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

Start with players and something simple, you don't even really need a VTT for combat light rpg.
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Old 10-20-2021, 02:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FF_Ninja View Post
  • A functional understanding of whatever digital tabletop environment I want to use - leaning towards FoundryVTT presently. That'll take time.
  • A decently fleshed-out world in which I can run a campaign. Even if I start "big" and flesh out broad details, I'm not even sure where to start. And I want to be able to take a bite out of this one so badly, it's been escaping me for years.
  • At least a passable knowledge of whatever books I want to use.
  • Assets. Digital tabletop makes things a lot easier, but I'm still going to need to generate assets (maps, splats, etc).
  • Recruitment. It'll take time to attract and vet players.
As they say, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Or maybe it's "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Either way, you will indeed frighten yourself into inaction if you view the project as a monolithic whole.

Instead, realize that an RPG world is an intensely modular undertaking, and also one which is never really "finished." So your goal should be to set up some clear developmental markers for yourself: tasks large enough that you'll get that welcome buzz of accomplishment, but small enough that they feel surmountable.

I would start by picking one campaign world, with the understanding that, like any artwork, a campaign world can always be set aside and picked up later. But if post-apocalyptic is what speaks to you right now, follow that urge, if only for now. It's a hobby, not a marriage.

Then, work both ends against the middle. You need to set the high-level parameters of your world: how does magic work? what species inhabit the area, and how do they relate? etc. You need those high-level decisions in place in order to make consistent decisions about matters at lower scales.

But then, instead of getting lost in encyclopedic details that may never see the light of day, leap from the high level to the lowest one. What do you want the player-characters to do in the setting? Like the campaign world as a whole, this is a choice, and one that can change. Perhaps your post-apocalyptic world can support both voyages of exploration among the ruins and political machinations in the Court of the Crater Kingdom, but presumably one speaks to you more than the other. Using your high-level decisions, figure out the racial or professional templates that players will need, equipment lists, mechanics for subsystems like magic or martial arts, and the factions and institutions that they might want as Patrons, Enemies, employers, or targets.

How you run the game is an entirely different project from the game itself. Don't treat them as the same. A coherent campaign world can be played in person, as glacially slow play-by-post, on Discord voice chat as theatre-of-the-mind, on a VTT with hastily sketched map, or on a VTT with lavish floorpans and programmed lighting effects. But don't make the perfect the enemy of the good; an evocative campaign world demands to be played, and a solid group of players will engage with your creation in whatever milieu you choose. You can always scale up to bigger and better materials as your world and your play group develop, but if you insist on starting from perfection you'll never actually get there and never actually start. Again, set markers and guideposts, to allow yourself the pleasure of accomplishment along a well-blazed trail that you permit yourself plenty of time to ascend.

Remember that good players may also have a hand in the creation of your campaign world: they'll ask questions, or think of character types, or come up with tactics on adventures, that will spur additional thoughts or require additional background or mechanics. That's another reason your campaign world shouldn't be thought of as something to be "finished" before letting players have access to it; it's going to turn into a cooperative act of creation, which by definition means it won't ever be finished.

So, I'd set a basic outline of work something like the following:
  • Choose a campaign world on which to concentrate.

  • Read the appropriate GURPS publications to familiarize yourself with existing rules and worked examples.

  • Make the high-level decisions that define your world.

  • Decide on the specific low-level situation you'd like to game out as an introduction to the world.

  • Create a "player bible" with information on character creation, campaign theme/style, house rules or specialized systems, and world background at both the top-level and local scales. (Obviously, this needs to be sectioned into its own set of continuously-updated pieces; I'm in a campaign right now whose basic setting documents keep changing as we poke holes and ask questions!)

  • Decide what materials you need for the locations and plots you're likely to use in your specific campaign setting. Regional maps? Coats of arms for noble houses? Character and monster tokens? Combat locations? Remember that you can always sketch things roughly, and as long as you create a few new things once in a while, you'll slowly develop an extensive library, given time.

  • Recruit players. Where and how depends on how you want to run the setting, whether via play-by-post, face-to-face, online conferencing, or full-blown VTT.
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Old 10-20-2021, 03:38 PM   #6
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

My first step is to put together a list of several campaigns I might run, and circulate it among players. They tell me which ones they prefer, and I choose one that has high player appeal, and THEN do the work on it, knowing that there's actual demand for it. Knowing your audience/market is a big help in creative ventures.

For example, here's what I circulated to my local players a couple of months ago:

You have 10 points to bid for the following campaigns. You can bid 0 points for a campaign you don’t want to play in; I won’t put you in that campaign—and since I want everyone to play, this amounts to a veto on my running it. (But don't put points into a campaign you don’t want to play in!) The more positive points you give a campaign, the stronger the interest you’re showing; bidding 2 points shows an average level of interest.

_____ DC Realtime. Four-color supers. Villains and Vigilantes. Source material: DC Comics (especially published 1938–1986).
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC universe was left with a single timeline, and remained that way—but not the timeline that DC actually published. The characters acquired from Charlton Comics, Fawcett Comics, Quality Comics, and other publishers no longer existed, and the actual DC characters began their careers in the years when they were first published and aged year for year after that. Now, in 2021, a new generation of superheroes are starting to appear and carry on the old traditions. Heroes will largely follow the conventions of the Silver Age, but within a consistent continuity; death will be rare, but the dead will stay dead. Characters can either be designed or randomly generated, at the player’s preference.
You may enjoy this campaign if you have fond memories of the Silver Age of Comics; you want to create new superheroes without being overshadowed by the established characters.

_____ Dragon Pass. Low fantasy. RuneQuest. Source material: the Odyssey; Icelandic sagas; The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. This will continue a campaign I have been running earlier this year.
In the sparsely populated borderlands between the Lunar Empire and Sartar, opportunities await those with quick wits or strong arms. Young adventurers have the chance to risk their lives seeking lost treasures, defeating enemies, and gaining fame. Any character may learn both combat skills and spells. Characters may have to deal with war parties, monsters, or haunted ruins; combat will be realistic and risky. Play will be episodic, but with an underlying theme of increasing competence.
You may enjoy this campaign if you like adventure and physical danger; you’re comfortable with having your character at risk; you enjoy classic fantasy settings.

_____ Satanic Mills. Horror. Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. Source material: Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Angel; North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell; Dracula, by Bram Stoker.
Into every generation a Slayer is born: one girl in all the world . . . in Manchester, the world’s greatest industrial city in the 1830s, where vampires and demons hide in the smoke-filled air. The game offers the option of one player taking the role of the Slayer, but this isn’t mandatory; some or all players will be white hats, and possibly belong to the Watchers. Adventures will largely involve supernatural threats but may fall into any of the emerging fantastic genres of the era.
You may enjoy this campaign if you’re a fan of the Buffyverse; you like the Age of Steam as a setting; you enjoy rules-light game systems.

_____ Spindrift. Adventure/science fiction/alternate history. Champions. Source material: the Rick Brant novels, by John Blaine; Rocket Ship Galileo, by Robert Heinlein; Jonny Quest.
An island off the coast of New Jersey is the home of a world-famous scientific research foundation, which among other things sent the first rocket to the moon in 1946. Now headed by the son of the founder, it continues to produce new discoveries and inventions—and send expeditions all over the free world, sometimes accompanied by teenage children of its researchers. Players will take the roles of young adventurers involved in danger and intrigue.
You may enjoy this campaign if you have fond memories of young adult fiction; you like your marvels and wonders to have a scientific basis.

_____ Water Margin. Alternative history/swashbuckling/martial arts. GURPS. Source material: Water Margin, by Shi Nai’an; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and other wuxia films; “The Man Who Would Be King,” by Rudyard Kipling.
Centuries ago, Zheng He’s fleets opened the way to a Chinese Empire spanning much of the world. Now, in the protectorate of Tsinghau (the British Isles), native troops and officials and Imperial advisors work to maintain order in a time of troubles, as Imperial authority weakens. Action will be cinematic, and characters will be larger than life, with access to exotic European martial arts such as capa y espada and bare-knuckle boxing, but not to overt magic or supernatural elements.
You may enjoy this campaign if you enjoy alternate history settings; you can play under exotic cultural assumptions; you want combat, danger, and intrigue; you like swashbuckling or wuxia.

Of course my format isn't sacred, but it's one that has worked for me.
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Old 10-20-2021, 03:59 PM   #7
Alden Loveshade
 
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Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

This is more of a "I'm sorry you're going through that" and "I can relate" response.

I went through a very difficult period several years ago. GMing GURPS helped keep me sane. It kept me in contact with other people, and running a world helped me feel there was at least something in my life I had control over. Hope it goes well for you!
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Old 10-20-2021, 05:06 PM   #8
Taneli
 
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Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

As a complete side note, I've noticed that writing by hand with a pen, on actual paper helps me to declutter my brain. I try to fill three pages with my ridiculously illegible long hand starting every morning. Sometimes I get three pages in the morning, sometimes I hastily note down as the last thing before sleeping that I didn't get much writing done that day, and sometimes I write extra pages for some days.

It can be anything that I write, stream of consciousness stuff on whatever it is that I have on my mind at the time. Sometimes it's rpg stuff, sometimes I wonder about how the act of writing feels, sometimes it's about the weather.

Might be worth trying.
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Old 10-20-2021, 07:57 PM   #9
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Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

I guess this is another useless "I feel your pain" posts. My ideas use pack hunting tactics: as soon as I try to focus on one, five others attack me from behind.

RPGs are niche enough that it can often be easier to find adaptable advice written for other fields. It's hard to find a novelist that hasn't also written something (from blog post to textbook) on how they get their creative on.
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Old 10-20-2021, 09:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: I need some help clearing out the clutter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FF_Ninja View Post
  • A functional understanding of whatever digital tabletop environment I want to use - leaning towards FoundryVTT presently. That'll take time.
  • This should probably be your lowest priority, and you might not need to invest too much time in this. I use Roll20 for games I GM, and I play in some on Fantasy Grounds. I keep the R20 tabletop VERY SIMPLE, using few of the bells and whistles that make an RPG game played on a VTT seem more like a videogame than a tabletop experience. Fog-of-War and all that stuff is nifty, but not anything I want to have to deal with, and my players haven't complained. You can draw your own simple maps w/Roll20, or--even simpler--draw your own simple maps on paper and import jpegs of them to use as your maps. This works for me, because most of the substance of our games doesn't require tactical maps.

    Quote:
  • A decently fleshed-out world in which I can run a campaign. Even if I start "big" and flesh out broad details, I'm not even sure where to start. And I want to be able to take a bite out of this one so badly, it's been escaping me for years.
  • Start with an adventure you want to run and create that. Then think about what implications it presents, jot those down, and build out from there.
    Quote:
  • At least a passable knowledge of whatever books I want to use.
  • Yes. But you don't necessarily need everything from each of the books.
    Quote:
  • Assets. Digital tabletop makes things a lot easier, but I'm still going to need to generate assets (maps, splats, etc).
  • Roll20 gives you some assets for free, but I made my own counters from my PDFs of The Fantasy Trip and Cardboard Heroes. Easy and no extra money.
    Quote:
  • Recruitment. It'll take time to attract and vet players.
Just start with one adventure and let things grow from there.

Quote:
I'm confronted with this mountain. I don't want to put it off any longer, nor abandon it because it's "too big."

I just don't know what to do right now. I want to take the time I have and use it fruitfully.
Once something is started, it is easier to keep it moving. I've occasionally organized cartooning sessions for the museum I work with, and a strategy common among the artists is to have a lot of paper and to just make a few lines on a page and let a drawing emerge from them--an S shape turns into a dragon, or a zig-zag turns into a running person. To use this for writing, just write down a list of words that come to mind as you think of your adventure or world. The words don't have to be sentences--just one word per line. You can use the single words from your list to build sentences that describe your adventure, and then whatever parts of your game world you need to support the current adventure. And then, just repeat as you need for further adventures in the same world or to create a new world.

Good luck!
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